PURCHASE, N.Y. – There are dates, and games, Frank Lampard circled on his calendar.
There are the Red Bulls games, there’s the reunion with Didier Drogba and then the huge showdown with the LA Galaxy Saturday (3 pm ET, ESPN in the US | MLS LIVE in Canada), which coincides with his daughter Luna’s birthday two days later.
“I looked at it very early,” Lampard said.
The match is being touted for its immense star power on both sides, with Lampard and former Liverpool star Steven Gerrard front and center.
Lampard said he is excited to get that rivalry renewed with his former England teammate, as well as play against former Chelsea teammate Ashley Cole and Premier League veteran Robbie Keane. But he’s not sure if he needs to reserve a table of three at a Manhattan restaurant with Gerrard and Cole.
“I’m going to try and see Ash and Stevie at the hotel. I’ve got a couple of Chelsea friends over from London as well for the game,” Lampard said. “We might go and see them if I have the chance. But we’re focused. We’re friends, but in the build-up to games I like to keep my head down and Ashley is the same. If they stay over after the game then maybe we’ll share a dinner or a beer afterwards.”
Lampard said he is particularly close with Cole, who is part of a group of Chelsea legends that includes Drogba, Petr Cech and John Terry who continue to chat and remain in touch.
“We’re very close-knit, all of us,” Lampard said. “It will be a pleasure again to play against Ashley. I played against and with him before. For me, the best left back England has ever produced and the best left back in the world for a quite a consistent period.”
Lampard said he’s been aware of the Galaxy since David Beckham’s arrival in Major League Soccer in 2007. Even before he joined NYCFC, Lampard said he watched LA Galaxy matches and has immense respect for Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena.
“I think he’s a world-class coach, not just for MLS,” Lampard said. “I think he’s fantastically knowledgeable in the game and good with his players and he’s produced team after team. Even when a team changes a lot of players, he still manages to have a team that challenges.”
There’s plenty of pre-game hype with big-name players on both sides and that’s just fine with Lampard.
“I think it carries a bit more and good. I’m sure it does for both teams,” Lampard said. “We’re big franchises, both of us, big players, there will maybe extra media attention and a big crowd on the day. The basic is three points for both of us, we’re both fighting in different conferences. Of course there’s pride between players and when you’re playing against another big franchise you want to win.”
There was a lot of hype last year, too, but NYCFC was played off the field at the StubHub Center in a 5-1 defeat last August 23.
This is a different NYCFC team, a more competitive side that currently sits atop the Eastern Conference standings. Lampard said a much better showing Saturday will be important to prove NYCFC as an MLS Cup contender.
“We know last year was a very disappointing result there and we want to cast ourselves as a team that’s going to challenge,” Lampard said. “Its very important that we try and put that right and show the form we’ve been showing this season and particularly the last couple of months.”